It’s more than just a word

I’ve been involved in a rather heated internet debate with some women I collaborate with on another website. We’ve been going back and forth, as part of a larger discussion, on the meaning of a loaded word. And I’d really like to know how it makes you feel, what it makes you think. I’m curious to know whether it’s use is horrendous and offensive enough to make you run away and never look back,  or whether it’s just another word like any other that only has the power we give it. There is no judgement here. I am simply curious.

So. Readers. Tell me.

What does the word “cunt” mean to you?

25 Responses to It’s more than just a word

  • crysharris says:

    It depends on context. I’m not offended by it. Anything to do with vaginas is great, to me. Therefore, I can’t get too insulted if someone calls me one. They’re just ignorant of the wonder and power of cunts.

    In a sexual context, I think it’s a raw, sexy word. When I’m feeling vulgar and naughty, I use it.

    Cunt is vulgar, harsh, powerful. Feel free to label me as such.

    As a black person, I think people should get over the word nigger. It’s dumb. We all know what we mean when we use the ‘n’ word. Our minds fill in. It’s disingenuous to use the ‘n’ word. Just say nigger or don’t.

    We can’t get away with saying the ‘mf’ word! Let’s take back speech and stop worrying about offending people. We have no constitutional right to not be offended, grossed out, irritated, angered, or belittled.

  • bordtodth says:

    Nuthin’. It means nuthin’. It has no power. It’s a zero.

  • ~annie says:

    I agree that words have the power we give them, which is not to say that they become meaningless or banal simply because we decide to use them more often.
    Some words have a history of being derisive or incendiary and it will take some doing for them to become less so.
    A lot also has to do with context. For example, even if young women today call each other “bitch” and “ho” I don’t think it takes the sting away when a man uses the same words intentionally to put women down.
    Same with the “n” word. It’s apparently OK in certain settings and/or contexts, but watch out if it comes from outside of those settings/contexts.
    I’d rather play it safe and not antagonize anyone.

  • JenF says:

    I’ve been thinking about it some more and I think that I’m more offended by the use of pussy as an insult. How is it that a slang term for my own anatomy can be used to demean a man. Now, that’s offensive!

  • Cute~Ella says:

    It’s a word that can hurt and tear things apart. It’s a word that can heal and create bonds. Its power only comes from the context and tone we are using it in.

    And if we give it the power to hurt us.

  • I’ve always thought it was a sexy….it has that ‘edge’ ya know, its a ‘sharp’ word – LOL! and I realize Im more psycho than most!! – ive been called that before – and it’s no worse than bitch in my opinion. I have a friend that thinks it’s the most terrible thing you could ever say – i guess it depends on what experiences people associate with it?

  • It’s not a word I’ve used. I think I’d have to be really pissed at someone to call her a cunt. I do agree somewhat that words have power because we give it to them, but as people above have mentioned, I’ve never heard anyone called a cunt in a joking manner. Food for thought.

  • Trish says:

    I used to think it was an absolutely uncalled for vulgarism (when my British husband, now an ex) used it to refer to me on a regular basis.

    Then, while in the San Francisco airport, I found the book CUNT, which attempts to remove the negative connotations by insisting that the use of the word (once a term of respect before the patriarchy turned it into a profane, misogynistic epithet…) occurred as part of a conspiracy to make women feel a sense of self-loathing and uncleanness. (Yes this is ripped off from Amazon) It sort of worked. I don’t hate the word like I used to.

  • Superfan#1 says:

    “Cunt” is like “Motherfucker” on the juice.

    I’m a man, and my understanding is that my thoughts on “cunt” are like a white guy’s thoughts on “nigger”. It’s a word that has a HUGE impact on a large group of people. I’m not one of them.

  • g says:

    I am not offended by the word. But as an insult it is supremely calibrated to be vile – I like the comment by whoever upthread who said it’s hurtful because it’s reductive, it reduces you to your anatomy. You really zero in on why it’s an insult, used that way.

    although it doesn’t quite explain why “cunt” is so much more insulting than “dick.” Maybe guys don’t mind being reduced to their anatomy.

    On the Women’s Colony thread I left my take on turning the insult on its head. This is something I heard from someone else. I can’t claim authorship on it, but I think it’s quite funny, and for me it rehabilitates the word. I wont’ bring it up here, we’re being serious, but my comment is the 3rd one down at the Colony if you’re interested.

  • I was on the “ick” team, until I performed in The Vagina Monolouges one year. The next year I directed it. I felt much much much much forever different about all of it after that experience.
    anything said with malice can piss me smooth off.
    I use the word. Frequently. I use it as the ultimate of bad words. I use it in the sexy slurpy giggly moist context as well. It’s a word. It’s one I choose.
    my choice.
    it always comes back to choice, eh?

  • Jules says:

    I think most of the power of a word comes from the intention behind it. You can call someone something that is not considered a swear word and do it in such a way that makes it clear it is meant to be offensive. Likewise, you can use a swear word in an affectionate way to someone you know won’t be offended by it. I’m overweight so I would much rather someone call me a cunt than a fat pig.

    I don’t personally use the word cunt because I just don’t hear it very much (which is partly why it seems to have more power than other words) so I don’t think of it. It’s just not a part of my lexicon.

    I’m actually much more offended when people call women “girls” than by any swear word.

  • Lauren says:

    I think there are only two words in the English language I just can not say: the “n” word and the “c” word.

    I really don’t know why said “c” word has such a horrible connotation to me. I am racking my brain: I don’t think anyone has ever said it to me, I have hardly heard other people use it. Yes it is used often in a derogatory way – but “bitch” is used much more often – and often in a violent derogatory way – I could probably count on one hand the amount of days since about ’79 where that word didn’t come out of my mouth.

    I guess I would lean towards reclaiming it. However I don’t know if I have the stomach to help out – that word just creeps me out.

    I generally agree with words having the power we give them. One part of other people’s parenting I find so bizarre is an obsession on the part of some parents with swear words. Not shockingly they produce kids who love to swear. Was that too off topic?

  • MissM says:

    I really dislike the word. I have never heard it used in a way that was respectful, or even funny. I think “cunt”, unlike fuck for example, is not heard lightly or casually…

    I admit that I also dislike much of her other writing as well, Not just her choice of words. I am not a prude in the least, I just don’t enjoy her writing and the *way* she discusses sex.

  • bex says:

    depends on who says it.

    my boyfriend? splitsville.

    my boss/coworker? law suit.

    drunken homeless dude on the street? meh.

    admittedly, it takes quite a bit to offend me. usually it is the context of the situation that dictates my level of offense.

  • It’s not a word I use, but it doesn’t bother me either. I guess I can appreciate it for a couple of reasons: making se hot and dirty, which is a LOT of fun sometimes, and because it has spurred a good discussion. I don’t think anyone is letting their kids read the Bedroom section at the WC, so, to quote a favorite writer of mine, “Why the fuck not?”

  • Jenn says:

    Nothing is “just a word.” All words are symbols and have cultural context behind them.

    To use the word to refer to a body part is one thing, but unfortunately the word has too many negative associations with it. To call someone (a woman) a cunt is to reduce them to a piece of anatomy. I’d like to think we women are so much more than that… that we have so much more to offer than being just a body part.

    Can we, as women, take back this word? Give it our own power? I don’t know why we would want to. Let the uncouth misogynistic slobs have it… There are so many more words out there.

  • It’s an insult, and if someone really wants to earn it, I will say it to them in private. Mind you, this requires a level of hatred I can rarely summon combined with a huge amount of momentary anger.

    Why? Well, mostly because it is used to reduce a woman to a single part of her body that is then itself insulted with an epithet. Essentially, one is degrading the person not only with a strong word, but with a single-word sentence.

    “Cunt,” actually means, “You are nothing BUT the part of your anatomy that is used for sex.” The whole of your being is that and nothing more and the rest of your parts are just the pieces that haul it around.

    That’s just how I feel it is used, has been used and would be used in our society. However, in Ireland and other places, I have seen a lot less anger behind it and a lot more acceptance of it as both a positive and negative.

    I have used it only once positively. A friend of mine broke up with a cheating boyfriend. She had his illegally-tagged truck towed from his work place with a phone call to a cop friend. She then had him evicted from the apartment she left when they called it off, as she was the only person on the lease. When he came to plead his case, she called her cop friend again as he had warrants for not appearing in a few cases of pot possession. He was gone for 3 months.

    I never liked him. He was the ultimate douche. She was a sweetheart who had been a bit naive most of our friendship.

    I smiled as we caught up on all this and said, “I think I love it when you’re a cunt instead of a doormat!”

    She laughed and we drank more wine :)

    But no, it is a bad, bad word and it connotes a hell of a lot more when it is spat at someone, certainly.

  • Seth says:

    I cringe when I hear it. I agree with kerryanne: it seems to be used most often in a hostile/violent/negative/demeaning way. Usually annoying people say it–at least around me.

  • kerryanne says:

    It *is* just a word but unfortunately, is most typically used in a hostile/violent/negative/demeaning way, used to cut women and girls down, and so therefore I cringe at the sound of it.

    I find it most annoying and uncool when women use it.

  • erin says:

    mmm it’s a powerful word, and somehow i think it’s somewhat sexy? ha!
    that being said, i would never accept a man (or woman) spitting the word at me.
    i think it’s the ultimate word, bigger than fuck. much more rewarding to say on the tongue… but at the same time, depending on where you live- like… here, ireland and uk it’s easily said in everyday conversation-without much thought or meaning.

  • Craig says:

    “cunt” like most words has several meanings, varying from dialect to dialect and between socio-economic levels. It can be used as simply a synonym for “vagina” without any pejorative connotation or it can be used to mean a combo of “asshole” + “bitch” being more extreme than either. In the gay community being “cunty” is often a positive thing, meaning a person is very self-assured and “fierce”.

    To me it doesn’t have one meaning, and it all depends on context. I don’t find “cunt” more offensive than any of its many context-dependent synonyms. If directed at me, I might be offended depending on what is being meant, but in and of itself, it’s not offensive.

    That said, I admit that when used negatively, it can be rooted in sexism (similar to “bitch”) and therefore can be problematic.

    Calling someone a “cunt” is like “fag”, “bitch”, “nigger”, “dick” – depending on the context and intent of the speaker it can be pejorative or complimentary, sexist/racist/homophobic or not.

  • JenF says:

    I personally don’t care. It’s just a word. I generally don’t use it, though, because people get so upset over it.

  • Frogdancer says:

    It’s the worst swear word that anyone can say.

    I teach ESL kids (English as their Second Language) at a high school in Australia, and sometimes one of them will say it, having no idea what it’s referring to, just knowing that it’s an insult because of the context they originally heard it said.

    It’s not just my job to teach these kids how to write essays and to fix their grammar. I also have to teach them how to get along in this society. If they throw that word around, they’ll be labelled as the worst kind of redneck, (or ‘bogan’, as we call it here.) When I hear that word mentioned in class, it always sparks a lesson on appropriate language, and what all of the insults and swear words they’ve heard ACTUALLY mean. (The discussion about douches is always entertaining…)

    The word ‘cunt’ is NEVER used as a compliment… (“Oooo, nice dress, Cunt!) To say that it “is just a word” is disingenuous, as you can’t separate discussion of a word from all of the connotations that stick to it. People use the word ‘cunt’ as an extreme insult. Therefore, it’s a word I react to intensely. Whether it is actually a part of my own anatomy is totally irrelevant. Call me that and you’ll be in serious trouble.

  • MidLifeMama says:

    I assume you are referring to Kizz’s post about sex dreams. I agree that most of the time words are just words, that we choose what power we give them. When I read her post, my response was “Why did she choose that word?” I was more interested in her motivation for using it than in my own feelings about it. It is not a word I use. It has negative connotations, and I would, if I were her, have chosen many other terms to describe the beauty of the female body and the act she was describing. I am not as “in your face” with my sexuality as she is though, so I would take a VERY different approach to all of the topics she discusses. But to get back to your question, it is just a word. If someone were to use it to describe me, it says more about them than it does about me. And I guess I feel the same way about how Kizz used it.

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